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Friday, August 27, 2010

Ammonium Phosphate, Which Sickened 12 Workers in S.F., Considered 'Non-Toxic'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Keep this stuff out of your eyes, folks - WIKIPEDIA
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  • Keep this stuff out of your eyes, folks
This morning, SF Weekly reported on the "white powder" that sickened a dozen workers at the Pier 96 recycling facility and sent one to the hospital.

While the term "white powder" evokes the very worst post-9/11 memories, the white powder in question turned out to be ammonium phosphate -- which is, literally, a garden-variety fertilizer. Considering a dozen workers were injured, the Pier 96 recycling plant was evacuated for three hours, and a phalanx of emergency personnel spent all morning scoping the place out, it figures that this was the wrong way to dispose of ammonium phosphate. But you'd be surprised what the right way is.

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge says the ideal method of getting rid of unwanted ammonium phosphate is to "dump it on your lawn." That was seconded by personnel at the J.R. Simplot company, a massive Idaho maker of fertilizers. "I just dump it in my garden," said one employee. He also "leaves it in the bag and waits till next year."

Ammonium phosphate, by the way, is classified as "non-toxic." If it gets into your eyes, however, it may cause "particulate discomfort" -- which is just what happened this morning. If you manage to swallow some, expect diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, or formation of methemoglobinemia.

No licking the lawn now, y'hear?

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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